Eva Kotátková und Jiří Kovanda


Looking at Eva Kotátková’s scenic installations and Jiří Kovanda’s discrete interventions, it might well seem there is a frontal contrast. However, both artists inquire into the methods of forming human beings into subjects, as well as into the „practices of division“ that split us either within ourselves or from the others. The difference between Kotátková’s and Kovanda’s chosen means corresponds to their distinct experiential background both in art and life. In the 1970s, Kovanda’s actions and installations were accomplished within a close circle of intimate friends and outside of any official institutions, and Kovanda himself has always drawn from the pole of individuality and refused to attribute any openly political significance to his activities. On the other hand, Kotátková presents subjectivity as the resultant of the power-lines of social institutions such as school, factory, prison, even language – thus paradoxically confirming that the political execution of power can become something to talk about only once elementary fairness – previously refused to Kovanda – is established.
The difference between the two artists is evident even when, beyond the distinction of media between installation and intervention, they both employ almost identical means of expression. Already at Kovanda’s previous exhibition, gallery pedestals were his material, and he employed it sparingly to illustrate the fundamental corporeal qualities of gravity, lability or closeness. However, at the present exhibition, the pedestals represent the institutional support of visibility. The central object of the exposition is a frontally installed panel with two hanging coats whose sleeves move just so slightly. This movement is induced by the two artists, Kovanda and Kotátková, who stand behind the panel and hide their hands in the hanging sleeves. Even though both are doing the same, the action means something else for each of them: Kovanda pursues the project of his previous activities, devoted to the subject of disappearance and the impossibility of contact, whereas Kotátková develops her installations and performances demonstrating the hidden life of things and the silent speech of the disintegrated body. While the title of the exhibition might be interpreted to mean that the „hanging sleeves“ are indentical with the „hidden hands“, the truth is that Kovanda focuses on the hiding of hands, Kotátková on the motion of the hanging sleeves.
This difference – both in externally distinct and in seemingly similar works – constitutes the center of the exhibition: it is the reason that enables us to uncover the otherwise concealed working methods and backgrounds of both artists. A prominent slot among these methods belongs to the very willingness to cooperate: with gratuitous visitors in the case of Kovanda’s activities, with hired actors in Kotátková’s performances, or again with one another, as in this particular exhibition. Whether we start from the pole of individuality, like Kovanda, or from the diametrally opposite pole of society, like Kotátková, it always remains the case that a liberation from ourselves and from the subjectivity prescribed to us by disciplinary societies can be brought about only by a shared effort.

— Karel Císař